Department of Justice, citing security, asks for hold on Softbank/Sprint deal

Sprint and Softbank logos
Homies or Homeland Security issue?

The deal for Japanese telecom Softbank to acquire control of Sprint Nextel hit a speed bump Monday.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) asking it to defer action on the deal. The DOJ is currently checking into the matter for any "national security, law enforcement, and public safety issues."

But it doesn't sound like Sprint will be losing any sleep over the letter.

"This is a routine request when working with the CFIUS (The Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States) agencies regarding national security," John Taylor , a Sprint spokesman, told TechRadar.

He pointed to a similar letter the DOJ sent to the FCC in November, regarding T-Mobile's and its German parent company, Deutsche Telekom, bid to gain a controlling interest MetroPCS.

Dish's denouncement

Though Sprint might not be worried about the DOJ's involvement, the letter may be cause for celebration for those opposing the merger.

Earlier this month, Dish Network also asked the FCC to hold off on the Sprint/Softbank deal until the dust settles on Dish's bidding war with the third-place carrier to acquire Clearwire.

At stake is Clearwire's wireless spectrum, an attractive prize as Dish looks to jump into the wireless game. However, Clearwire already accepted a bid from Sprint in December.

That said, any delays in the merger between Sprint and Softbank could give Dish an opportunity to foil Clearwire's acquisition.

AT&T as well

Back in October when the acquisition was first announced, AT&T didn't sound too pleased about the merger at hand:

"SoftBank's acquisition of Sprint and the control it gains over Clearwire will give one of Japan's largest wireless companies control of significantly more U.S. wireless spectrum than any other company," Brad Burns, AT&T's vice president of media relations, said in a statement.

"We expect that fact and others will be fully explored in the regulatory review process."

AT&T's statement was a little cryptic, but it sounds like the top carrier is getting part of its wish: more exploration in the regulatory review process.

But whether or not that exploration yields any evidence to stop the deal is up to the DOJ to resolve. And we'll get that answer once the investigation wraps up, hopefully at the break-neck speed of government bureaucracy.